Sunday, November 30, 2008

7 Steps to Studying the Scriptures Part II

Greetings in the Lovely Name of Jesus:

In October we dealt with the Historical/Cultural and Grammatical steps in studying any passage of Scripture. Today, we lay out the four (4) remaining steps we pursue as we study the Word of God.

1. Step #4. The Contextual Perspective.

It is vitally important to understand any particular passage in light of the context in which it is written. The context defines the parameters the author has set.

For instance, take any parable Jesus gave and study it in light of the context. In fact, you can ask the question, what prompts His parable? This is generally a dead give away at what He was really saying and to whom it was said.

Down through the centuries the church has battled those who take a passage of scripture, dismiss the context and formulate a false thesis and platform to lead others astray.

If you have ever wondered how some who pretend to be biblical experts, arrive at their interpretations of Scripture, its really easy to get it. They simply take verses out of context to fit their preconceived ideas.

We would not have so many misguided teachers/followers and movements if people who study the bible would look at the Word of God in Context.

You can't cherry pick scripture and be a serious student of the Word of God at the same time.

Stay in context with your study.

2. Step #5. The Doctrinal Perspective.

I am automatically suspicious of any movement that relegates Christian doctrine to a less than central role in the life of the church. Movements such as the Seeker Friendly group and the Emerging Church growth crowd certainly fall into this category. Sadly many churches claiming bedrock Christianity have succumbed to the lie of Satan that doctrine is not really important.

So what is doctrine? The N.T. word for doctrine is literally teaching. We could call it an embodiment of ideas that someone formulates and presents to others. Inherent in the use of doctrine is the idea that whatever is believed will be taught to others.

Why is doctrine important? Many raise their voice and say Doctrine divides. It is irrelevant, boring and certainly divisive to many. I chose to disagree.

Biblical doctrine is important. In fact it is vitally important. Doctrine does not divide, it defines. Doctrine defines the great truths of Scripture that the church has rested upon down through the church age.

Think about the Doctrine of Salvation! What about the Doctrine of Justification or Sanctification? Are these truths no longer relevant to our church and the culture of the 21st century.

Anyone who tells you doctrine is not central to the Christian life is trying to lead you in an opposite direction or attempting to simply dumb you down so you won't know the different.

When you study the Scripture, look for the Doctrinal aspects of the passage. They may not always be in the forefront but they will certainly be in the background.

One example will do. In Genesis 3 we have the sin and fall of our first parents. The Lord God's response and dealing with Adam and Eve state at least four cardinal doctrines that run from "civer to civer" as an old timey preacher once said. What are they, you ask?

Genesis 3 gives us the first look at the Doctrine of Salvation, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith; The Doctrine of Original Sin; The Doctrine of Grace just for starters.

Because the Bible is a Symphony these doctrinal truths appear over and over again. A student who is cognizant of doctrinal truths will be rewarded in a deeper understanding of the Word of God.

3. Step #6. The Literal Perspective.

God has revealed Himself in His Word. His revelation is not mystical, nebulous nor mysterious.It was meant to be understood. His word is conveyed to rational minds in a simple and straight forward fashion.

In studying the Scripture I have always made it a point to abide by a basic principle: "If the literal sense makes good sense, seek no other sense." That's simple isn't it? If the passage in question makes literal sense, don't go get you a spiritual pick and shovel and start trying to unearth a meaning that is not there.

If you maintain this literal perspective God's word will make much more sense to you. And as a footnote, this literal approach will even help you identify those passages in the Word that are obviously symbolic. Revelation 14 comes to mind.

Remember, take it literal. As Stephen Olford often said, "God says what He means and He means what He says."

Once passage come to mind: Isaiah 55:6-7

"Seek ye the Lord while He may be Found

Call upon Him while He is near

Let the wicked forsake his way

And the unrigtheous man his thoughts

Let him return unto the Lord

And He will have mercy upon him

and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon."

I'm no Philadelphia Lawyer, but I think I get what my Lord is literally saying.

Step #7. The Personal Perspective.

I have saved this for last. The study of Scripture is not an academic exercise. Study and Prayer are the ways we stay in touch with our Master. It is the primary way He communicates with us. This S & P has nothing to do with the financial markets. It has to do with the real Him and the real You.

Now, if I want to hear from Him, it is essential I study His Word. If you will take the time to incorporate the six (6) steps mentioned -----Historical, Cultural, Grammatical,Contextual, Doctrinal, Literal------------He will speak to you. He will speak to your heart personally.

On numerous occasions, I have been approached many times as I arrived at church, "Brother Glenn, I need to speak to you after the worship service is over. I have an issue, a problem, a crisis,,,,,etc...etc....that I need some advise on."

More than once, that person that met me at the door comes back afterwards and says, We don't have to talk, God spoke to my heart through the message or the lesson that was just presented. Strange uh? No, not really. It is often the way the Lord speaks to us if we are really listening.

HE indeed will speak to US personally.

I'm sure there have been times in your life when you realized that an event, an endeavor, or some enterprise had simply wasted your time. No serious student of Scripture will say that.

Until December or His Call, have a blessed and holy Day.

Glenn Bentley
Sharing The Truth Ministries